Controls on chlorophyll-a in nutrient-rich agricultural streams in Illinois, USA

Débora Figueroa-Nieves, Todd V. Royer, Mark B. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nitrogen and phosphorus are the primary nutrients that affect water quality in streams in the midwestern USA and high concentrations of these nutrients tend to increase algal biomass. However, how nutrients interact with physical controls in regulating algal biomass is not well known in agricultural streams. Eighteen streams in east-central Illinois (USA) were sampled during June and September 2003 to analyze factors possibly regulating algal biomass. Additionally, two shaded and two non-shaded sites in the Embarras River in east-central Illinois were sampled intensively from June to December 2003. Both sestonic and periphytic chlorophyll-a (chl-a) were analyzed, and periphytic chl-a was assessed on natural substrata and unglazed ceramic tiles. Although high concentrations of nutrients were found in these streams (mean total P = 0.09-0.122 mg l-1 and mean NO3-N = 4.4-8.4 mg l -1), concentrations of sestonic chl-a were low among all sites and both sampling periods (<18 mg m-3, median values of 5 and 3 in June and September, respectively). Filamentous algae were an important component of the algal communities in streams with stable substrata. Periphytic chl-a was generally not related to the concentration of N or P in the water column, and in non-shaded streams periphyton appeared at times to be light-limited due to turbid water. Turbidity was found to be an important factor controlling chl-a on ceramic tiles across the 18 sites and for the Embarras River sites; chl-a decreased exponentially in concentration (132-0 mg m-2) as turbidity increased from 4 to 39 NTU (r2 = 0.80). In general, the interaction between hydrology and light (turbidity) likely controlled algal biomass in these nutrient-rich, agricultural streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Agricultural streams
  • Chlorophyll-a
  • Illinois
  • Nitrogen
  • Periphyton
  • Phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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